The conclusion of the long-winded process was not expected until the end of the year but was praised as ‘long-sighted, coherent and robust’ (Andrew Jack, FT). It did however raise questions about the immediate future of Chris Viehbacher and David Stout, both of whom were ‘leapfrogged’ by outsider Witty (The Times). Chairman Sir Christopher Gent praised all three as ‘exceptional internal candidates’.
Witty’s experience in Asia and Africa, and his introduction of innovative pricing in Europe, were said to have swayed the decision.
Some eyebrows were raised over his relative lack of experience in the US, GSK’s largest market, where there are concerns about the company’s Avandia diabetes treatment. He must also address calls for less profitable consumer products to be spun off.
But most analysts were cheered: ‘He has the CEO feeling about him,’ said Peter Cartwright at Evolution Securities (The Guardian).